Calling a Patient 'Sugar': Abuse?

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Specializes in Cardiology and ER Nursing.

I don't call anyone sweetie, sugar, or any other pet names let alone calling a patient by these names. Sure I'm boring, but I'm not particularly fond of being called these names so I'm not going to call anyone else by them. Is it abuse to call people by these names? Most certainly not and I'm not going to fault those that do call patients by these names. It's more a matter of comfort both on the patient's part and the nurse's. Me I'm all about addressing patients by their first names as opposed to addressing them as Mr or Mrs/Miss/Ms. X. That has more to do with my idea that addressing patients by their first name establishes more of a friendship or somewhat less formal relationship than the very formal relationship addressing patients strictly as Mr or Mrs implies. Then again each person has to find what works for him or her. I can only go by what my experiences have been and thus far my interactions with patients have been overwhelmingly positive calling patients strictly by their first names.

Ruby Vee, BSN

47 Articles; 14,024 Posts

Specializes in CCU, SICU, CVSICU, Precepting & Teaching.

for the love of god, can't they find something important to feel abused over?

i've seen lots of nurses and cna call patient's "sugar", "honey", "sweetheart", "dear" and all sorts of other endearments that may or may not be politically correct. and the men are "boss", "chief", "dude" or a plethora of other names. honestly, when a patient is trying to die or trying to kill me, my last concern is being politically correct . . .so you may indeed hear me say something like "please don't kick anyone, dear. don't pull on that, sweetie, that's your chest tube."

much as i try to call everyone by the name they prefer (bed a might be "billy" while bed b is "mr. williams"), sometimes the only way i remember a name is by checking the name band. hard to do that while they're trying to punch you.


204 Posts

I agree that this is a southern thing. I have lived in the south all my life and I get called and hear others being called dear, sweetie, honey, sugar, darling, doll, and love on a daily basis. Many patients call the doctors that as well. Some of the docs even do it on occasion. It has never crossed my mind to be offended by it. It beats "hey you" which I also hear a lot.

canesdukegirl, BSN, RN

4 Articles; 2,543 Posts

Specializes in Trauma Surgery, Nursing Management.

You know, I have to stop myself from being completely enraged by the use of the word "abuse" over a simple word such as 'sugar' or 'honey'.

The use of the word 'abuse' should not be diluted over silliness like this. Abuse is the 4 year old that was beaten to death with an extension cord. Abuse is the woman who arrived in my OR with irreparable damage to her head from being hit with a baseball bat by her husband. Abuse is the man who was neglected by his family members as he was bedridden and sat in his own urine and feces for days on end.

We as nurses have all seen the horrors of abuse. I BEG YOU ALL not to equate words like 'honey and sugar' to abusive behavior. This is the equivalent to saying that you were abused at the grocery store because the person with the full cart in front of you didn't let you go first since you only had one item.

Let's get real here.


89 Posts

From a patient's POV, sometimes those terms of endearment are actually nice to hear coming from a nurse. When I had my first surgery at 17 and was a nervous wreck, the nurse who took me from pre-op to the OR said "just relax sweetheart, you get to take a little nap while the rest of us go to work." When I woke up I got a "welcome back sweetie, it's all over and you're okay." The warm nature of her tone combined with the terms of endearment made me feel much more at ease.

At my former job, I always loved when my customers were up visiting from the south somewhere, because I love hearing that southern "darlin'". But the people who would call me "girl"....ugh.

I rarely use those types of terms, and probably won't once I'm a nurse, but I don't consider them bad, and to me they are very, very far from abuse.

Specializes in cardiology/oncology/MICU.

I initially give my patients the respect of call them Mr or Mrs. I am younger than most all of my patients and I think that this is appropriate. I find, however, that most of the time they do not want me to continue this. Many of them will ask me to call them by thier first name or they will say something like Mr Jenkins was my father, call me (blank). I too heard the whole bit in school about it being demeaning or patronizing. I think that if we are addressing our patients with "baby talk" and the like that may not be cool, but I have yet to see any of our patients become offended when a nice caring nurse calls him or her sweetheart or baby or honey. I live in the south and this is part of our daily dialogue.

jeannepaul, BSN

134 Posts

Specializes in hospice.

I have to laugh because when I was younger I would cringe when I heard someone being called honey or sugar. It was also before I was a nurse. Now I find myself saying it all the time along with momma. most of my pt's are very elderly and are usually bedbound, confused and I'm usually touching thier arm or caressing their hair to let them know I am there and not going to hurt them. I never seem to do it to the younger patients.

Specializes in family practice.

Since you all are saying its wrong/offensive to call pt's "hon" and "sugar" am i suppose to call pediatric patients Ms soandso?

K nurse-one-day

693 Posts

Calling patients by pet names is unprofessional and lazy. You're their care giver. You are not their mother, grandma, auntie, or spouse.

My preceptor did this. She told me flat out that she doesn't call pt's by their name. Drove me nuts.

Is it abuse? Heck no. Offensive and abusive are 2 completely different things

allnurses Guide

JBudd, MSN

1 Article; 3,836 Posts

Specializes in Trauma, Teaching.
Calling patients by pet names is unprofessional and lazy. You're their care giver. You are not their mother, grandma, auntie, or spouse.

Strong opinion there! I disagree however,,, I am not lazy nor am I unprofessional. As care givers, (emphasis on the care part), we are at times in a very intimate relationship (putting in a Foley is pretty danged intimate). I remain professional and explaining each step as we go, but if an endearment type word slips out while comforting someone having a hard time during a procedure, I am not abusing them! Nor being lazy. I am acknowledging their humanity.

"hon" slips out quite a bit. So does "dearheart" because many patients are dear to my heart. I have made a conscious effort to use less intimate terms, and try to use "friend" or "little brother" more, but never to use any comforting term is not going to happen.


5 Posts

Specializes in Med Surg.

Abuse? No.

Disprespecful? Yes

And it's just not professional... just my humble opinion:twocents:

Specializes in Telemetry.

So is it alright to call them Ms. FirstName? Or only right to say Ms. LastName? My cousins (from NY) tease me (from the South) for this saying Ms. FirstName while they say Ms. LastName. :) I guess if I continue to live in the South I can say Ms. FirstName but if I relocated, I'll use Ms. ;)

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